Howard's dog Sid chasing his first win of the season
"A great start to the shooting and trialling season saw Chyknell Eagle of Mullenscote (Link) and Shallowoak West Sydnie of Mullenscote (Sid) both come home from trials with awards. I’m really pleased with Link's performance, as this was his first ever trial and he was just brilliant. I will continue to work hard chasing that 'oh so elusive' win but both dogs show the potential to do just that, so fingers crossed!
So many commitments
In fact crossing my fingers will simply not be good enough. Training a dog requires commitment, dedication and attention to detail. Training a dog to the standard of obedience, game-finding ability and fitness required to be competitive in a trial can become all-consuming. Trying to balance the day job, whilst fulfilling all those commitments - and making time to visit my girlfriend (who might just be next me as I write this) - can be really demanding on your time. Make no mistake, I’m not complaining, dog trainers all over the world spend their lives racing around to make time to indulge themselves in this all consuming pastime. And I’m in the privileged position of being able to combine both - lucky, lucky, lucky me.
When dog training is like eventing
Field trialling dogs is very similar to eventing horses, sometimes very frustrating as you are often all dressed up with nowhere to go. When entering a horse to run in an event, you know that your entry is one of the many going into the ballot system when the event is oversubscribed. The same is true when sending in an entry to run in a trial - most trials are run with sixteen dogs and handlers, more often than not the Field Trial Secretary receives as many as fifty entries.
A draw is then held and you hope and pray that you will be one of the first sixteen out of the draw. With two dogs absolutely on the boil I’m as frustrated as a very frustrated person having just had the results of two draws - when you see the stamp addressed envelope amongst your daily post you open the envelope with excitement and anticipation. In the last two draws I have been drawn number 41 and 43, grr!
Don’t rush the basics
We are midway through our latest six-week gundog training course; the courses are structured with a Bronze, Silver and Gold level allowing handlers to work their way up through the required elements, acquiring the skills and knowledge that they will need to train their dogs. True to form at this halfway point some handlers are looking a little stressed; today’s session saw really great dog work though.
Group training sessions require a delicate balance. Some young dogs are easily excited when around other people and dogs, and this overexcited behaviour can be difficult to mange. The great news is that with the right approach to training owners are able to take control and gradually teach these youngsters to calm down and learn how to relax and behave in the company of others. These early basic self-control lessons (dogs and handlers) are essential stages that - if neglected - will often result in restricting your dog's ability to grasp more advanced levels of training. It’s so easy to get carried away and rush early training, sometimes neglecting the basics.
“We’ve done three shows with Living Heritage over the last couple of months and they have been the most fantastic fun. Everything has gone really smoothly and of course, the stars of the show, the dogs, have been brilliant. Not always, I hasten to add because everything has gone exactly to plan and success with dog training is very much reliant on the handler’s ability to recognise and react quickly to things that are not going to plan.
Huge team effort
The fact that our time spent at shows in the arena has been such fun has is in no small way down to the huge team effort that goes into preparing for these events. The Dog Training Team here at Mullenscote work tirelessly to ensure that everything is planned and prepared for as many eventualities as possible. The canine team are being worked and trained throughout the year but preparation of the lorry and all of the equipment that we need at shows is never ending. Food, water, bedding, fuel, clothing, equipment and first aid for both dogs and humans need constant planning and attention.
The five Ps
The five Ps of ‘Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance’ rings true right across our day to day lives and is an essential skill for a dog trainer. Not just day to day stuff, such as when, where and how will I exercise train and care for my dog, but understanding, knowing and being able to predict your dog’s response or behaviour to any given situation. Dog training experts seem to be at one with their dogs, in tune with them, almost with a canine brain. Don’t worry its nothing you can’t achieve yourself, yes -certain character traits suit the profile of the perfect dog trainer but primarily it’s about experience, being in and around dogs but while there studying, noticing and recording what they do.
This lack of experience is what makes dog training so difficult for some owners. Learning on the job is your only option. Remember, your pup grows up really fast, so don’t sit on your hands and wait for problems to arise; research, anticipate, spend time with dog trainers at classes and with people that are obviously good with their own dogs. Don’t always take your puppy to these classes so you can watch, listen and absorb the experience without distraction.
Make sure dogs get plenty of stimulation if stuck indoors
"As lovely as this snowy weather is, it can create problems for dog owners. Being quite literally 'snowed in' may mean that you can't take Rover out for his daily walkies. Don’t panic, obviously it's essential that your dog is able to get outside to relieve himself but if you're really struggling to get out for daily exercise, you might be wise to think about alternative ways of making sure you exercise both yourself and the dog. If you’ve got a garden then you're one step ahead and there are always lots of games and fun to expel some of that canine energy, retrieving, catch, hunting, hide and seek, and of course don't forget training.
Brain and brawn
Its very easy to overlook just how much mental stimulation during a training session can tire a busy mind and body. Basic training and tricks can be great fun and extremely useful for an energetic and exuberant dog.
If you are enthusiastic and lucky enough to get out and enjoy the snow and ice then a word of caution: Stay away from frozen ponds, lakes and waterways, as dogs can get into serious trouble if they fall into freezing water. Play safe and keep away from them, the risk is too great.
Whether you're staying indoors or getting stuck in out there in the cold, keep those dogs mentally active too and have a great time."
“Catapulting us from the depths of despair last week, my son has made an amazing recovery from his quad bike accident. Midway through a gundog demonstration at Bowood Game and Country Fair, my mobile phone started to ring; every bone in my body wanted to answer it but at that point in the recovery process, every phone call was answered with fear - ever nervous of bad news from the hospital.
A message from the ex
The answer phone took the message, I finished the demo and immediately went to the answer machine and the message was from my ex-wife who was at the hospital with Charlie. “Charlie’s back, we’ve got our boy back,” were the two sentences that will sit with me for the rest of my life. The rush of relief that shot through my body can only be described as something that I’ve never felt in my life and the only words that I can think of and spell correctly is overwhelmingly, euphoric!
A massive thank you to every single person whose support and goodwill was invaluable.
As a family, we have been incredibly lucky to get out of this one so lightly, I realise that for people every where that life does not always deal such a kind hand so do not wish to appear to sound flippant, but, MY BOY IS BACK, wow!
My favourite diamond geezers, Brian and Tracey Chesser, continue to go from strength to strength winning just about every gundog event that they enter. The gundog addiction has now taken hold and the Chessers are now a two gundog family. We helped them with a dummy delivery problem through the H&C website and the use of video, and it is fantastic to see such enthusiastic and hardworking people having so much fun and achieving so much with their dogs. I asked Brian for a picture of himself and all his winnings and you can see that they are quite a force to be reckoned with.
The grouse shooting season is now well under way and the annual build up of excitement and last minute preparation of dogs and guns is upon us. I will be reluctant to see the long warm days of this summer drift away, but as you all know the shooting season means that we will soon now get to put into practice all those months of training and preparation with our dogs; get on!”
"Having just got used to being warm again, our weekend at Broadlands was spent wearing winter clothes again - Brrrrrrrrrrr! It was freezing, a cold Northerly wind made the showground bitterly cold, but true to form the crowds came to the Country Fair. Cold; no problem, we’re country folk, you can’t stop us enjoying ourselves!
Actually we had a great time, in fact the dogs enjoy the cooler weather and were really HOT! Sometimes if it's a bit too warm, the dogs are little lethargic, but not this time. They literally ‘had the wind up their tails.’ Taking a team of really excitable dogs into an arena with the pressure of putting on a show for an audience really excites me. Sid the ESS was on fire - in fact at times he was plain naughty. He has now done enough demos to know that my mind is not always focused on him, and he got up to all sorts of mischief during one demo.
Busy dogs very quickly learn that there are times and places when they get away with things and will very soon work out how to work the system. Sidney is currently taking part in a compulsory refresher course in Basic Steadiness and he is of course foot perfect back at home. It will be interesting to see if he can carry that same sense of self control to the arena at our next show at the South Eastern Game Fair in Kent.
Congratulations to some of our Mullenscote clients and their dogs: Kat Weyman and Ian Brothers dominated the open multi scurries at Broadlands with Ian and Ollie winning on Sunday whilst Kat and Hetty scorched their way to victory on the Monday, amazingly beating our own Head Trainer Annie into second place - well done you guys! Looking forward to you joining us at the Scurry Bandits Final at Sandringham later in the year. Not to be outdone, Brian Chesser, who we helped out using video and the H&C website, gave his dog Barley a run in their first Puppy/Novice working test with the URC and only went and bloomin well won it - hey Brian you are now officially a Diamond Geezer.
It’s just brilliant seeing these handlers doing so well, their success is down to hard work, determination, patience and some fantastic dogs. Make no mistake when you take on a Gundog from modern breeding you are buying into the best Gundog bloodlines in the world. You get what it ‘says on the tin’ a real Gundog, Cockers, Springers, Labradors and Goldies from field trial lines should now come with a great big warning label attached to them: 'Light blue touch paper and stand well back!'. The UK breeds the most exciting Gundogs you could ever wish to see. Get the chance to handle one of these rocket ships and you will quickly realise why Gundog addicts can’t wait to get home from work, and get out into the training field for their daily fix!"
“Ruby’s busy week began on a train and finished in the Charity’s kennels – here is a brief summary of these events and the bits in-between.
At the start of the week, Ruby and I accompanied my husband to the train station, including a walk down onto the platform to wait for the train to arrive. Ruby was completely at ease amongst all the commuters, and remained calm when the train arrived. Her ears pricked up at the sound of the shrill whistle as the doors closed shut, but she it did not unsettle her at all, which was excellent.
The next day, I took Ruby to town for a walk through the shopping centre, into a few shops and to the bank. I was really delighted with how well Ruby responded to me as we walked around. She ignored all distractions and did not try to scavenge when she passed food items from the market stalls that were discarded on the pavements.
A couple of days later, we all went to watch a rugby 7’s competition at a nearby club. Having walked around the outside of the pitch from a distance to enable Ruby to experience the levels of activity and noise, we then settled down on a picnic rug in the shade and watched a couple of matches. At first, Ruby was definitely interested in the hustle and bustle of the games and was keen to get closer when the oval ball came bouncing by. But, within ten minutes or so, she was content to stretch out and fall asleep – a case of the experience being more important than the result!
And yesterday, at the end of a busy week which also included plenty of walks and play, Ruby went to stay at the Dogs for the Disabled’s kennels. She will be there for a week, to familiarise her with the environment, and to enable the training and kennels teams to ensure that she will settle in these new surroundings. She is accompanied by Veto, a Cocker Spaniel of similar age, and my next blog will give you an insight into the activities that take place through this week of familiarisation and ensure she is right on track.
To finish, I wanted to thank you for all the comments from Ruby’s last blog entry. Now that Ruby has celebrated her first birthday, some of you were asking if this means that Ruby would soon be commencing her training. Sadly for us, Ruby’s start date is not far off, but we do have her for a few more weeks yet. Dogs for the Disabled aim to take each of their pups in for training at around 14 months old. Experience has shown the Charity that these extra couple of months give their dogs a little extra time to mature which ultimately means that they find learning their role as an assistance dog easier to adapt to from puppy socialisation.”
"Two days in sun-kissed Monmouthshire in Wales! You might think that sun-kissed and Wales wouldn’t normally go together in the same sentence, but it really is true.
The showground is located on the outskirts of Monmouth with just the best view you could wish for; we looked out across the most stunning Mountain side. The sunshine helped to bring out the crowds which gave the whole showground a really buoyant atmosphere. We were flat out in our training clinic - normally we have two trainers/advisers on duty at the clinics, but on this occasion it was just me. ‘Big Dave’ came to Monmouth to assist and he was a huge help. David has been helping us for about four years now and he really knows his stuff; having somebody who is so good with the dogs, people, is good fun and a qualified electrician is really great. The downside is that he Snores like a bloomin' trooper and in a small lorry it felt as though the Icelandic Volcano was erupting inside the living. David’s wife must either be deaf or ‘love him loads.’ I did not manage to muster that much patience and at one point threatened to hit him with a cricket bat if he did not stop.
The dogs were great; we took two young Spaniels with us, Bob and Jig. Once we had established that they were not to go outside of our arena they were both foot perfect, it still fascinates me how these youngsters cope with the transition from our rural training field to a busy show arena with all of the new sights, sounds and smells that bring.
Quite often we get asked to be part of live radio interviews that are broadcast from the showground. By prior arrangement two very nice ‘radio ladies’ arrived at the arena and after a brief chat I started to listen to one of them introduce me as a dog trainer whom had recently been part of a demonstration at Crufts where I had demonstrated my skills as Doggie Dancer dressed as a Cowboy. Right up to this point post Crufts I had managed to deal with all the mickey taking that had been directed at me by my so called friends about the doggie dancing that I had done, but to have it broadcast across Wales that I had done this dressed as a Cowboy left me cold! The radio presenter had been fed this rubbish by the show organiser who thought it would be funny. To everyone in Wales who heard this broadcast, Doggie Dancing…..I can live with….. dressed as a Cowboy…………NO WAY!"
Handling dogs can be hugely gratifying for juniors
"It’s been Sunny and dry here for nearly a whole week now; the physiological effect it has on everyone is a real plus. The extra daylight, warmth and general good feelings that this creates has seen us out dog training and completing general duties until eight o’clock at night. This is of course brilliant for everyone concerned; the dogs get more training, I feel fitter and generally better about life and we get a lot more done.
There is however a downside to all this late night activity. Eastender’s is often on at 7.30pm, damn, I’ve missed loads of episodes and the plot seems to be running so fast it seems that I’m unable to keep up with it, and on the rare occasion that I have been in early enough to watch an episode up pops some leggy blonde or tall dark handsome bloke that is now obviously a key character, the problem is I don’t have a clue who it is.
There must be a solution? If there were some amazing portable gadget/TV that would reliably (ALWAYS) work that I could watch whilst striding around the training field then I could watch whilst training. But there doesn’t appear to be such a gadget yet. I’m sure it will be available soon, so I had a genius plan: there is now a new online H&C forum, just maybe, possibly, pretty please, someone could do a brief review on the week's events on the forum and then I could catch up? Probably not what the forum was designed for but hopefully, the H&C editors won’t mind?!
We spend a lot of time working with young people. One of them is a young dog handler called Harry Mann (what a brilliant name). Harry has been assisting us at shows for the last three years. Harry and his father are dedicated dog men and can be seen competing regularly across the country at the various shows and game fairs. Harry came into the arena and worked one of our dogs at a recent show. His dog handling skills have progressed so much that it's just like watching a mini professional at work. But he is not the only junior involved with Gundogs: The sport of Gundog Scurrying is developing a huge following with a growing number of youngsters. The skills, disciplines and sheer enjoyment young people can get from being responsible for training and handling a dog is priceless.
For any junior to handle a dog successfully they will need to learn handling skills that exceed their years. The junior handler will have to make up for a physical lack of ‘presence’ with nothing less than exemplary communication and handling skills, anything less will see even a well trained dog ‘come off the whistle’ and start to play up. Dogs, just like people, weigh-up a handler - the dog will quickly work out and expose a handler that is not yet quite up to the job. Firm, clear and consistent handling will be needed to keep any dog under control. Whilst we have focussed on junior handlers all of the above will be just the same for adults when handling and training."
Training dogs is rewarding, frustrating and hard work!
"This week we spent two days making movies. Well almost. The H&C team of Katie, Sharon and Peter came down and we did our very best to film all of the content that Peter will need to edit and produce a series of How To’s and a television programme. [Watch this space as Howard's How To's will be online soon].
It was great fun but surprisingly hard work. The weather was not particularly kind and the rain, whilst ok for both the dogs and ourselves, gave us several technical problems. Stating the obvious, rain on the camera lens and rain drops that sounded like someone banging drums through the microphone made filming outdoors tricky. Nevertheless the show must go on and using umbrellas, plastic bags, tin huts and a sense of humour we managed to film a load of really good stuff, so now we have to wait and see...
We had great news this week as the wonderful Collie Jack that we have been trying to find a new home for is now living in Collie heaven. Following our appeal for a new home in the Christmas blog, we had a reply from a lovely family based in the North of England. Yvonne and her family have a smallholding on which there are numerous other animals and dogs. Yvonne has sent us a photograph of Jack laid asleep with his head planted on the back of a new found canine friend and has obviously settled in like a duck to water. Jack has been one of those dogs that has spent his life moving back and forth from domestic homes to dog rescue centres, so it's brilliant to see him so settled in an environment that is totally suited to his needs. Fantastic result, absolutely superb for Jack.
Back here at Mullenscote Training Centre we continue to be busy; Easter holidays mean that there are lots of people, young and old, wanting to improve their dog training skills or sharpen up their shooting. Leisure time is so important to all of us nowadays - we all work so hard to be able to afford the time to do the things we enjoy. Our business is very much part of the leisure industry and ensuring that the time we spend as dog trainers or shooting instructors with our clients is time that is both enjoyable and educational is something that everyone here does their upmost to achieve. The really good thing is that the job is so enjoyable, helping somebody else to improve in their chosen sport generally means that you give them a good time, this makes them smile, this then makes us smile now everyone is happy. Well it works like that most of the time but sometimes people in sport impose enormous amounts of pressure on themselves to achieve - this can sometimes be very helpful but on occasions will work against them.
People and dog training are very different disciplines; for many of our clients training the dog is compulsory - sometimes the dog has become aggressive, pulls on the lead, trashes the house or just plain clears off at every available opportunity. Some of these people are at their wit's end, and by the time we see them they are stressed and often emotional. The advice, guidance and assistance that we offer must be delivered both professionally and with considered thought. If we get it right we can still sometimes help these people smile as well!"